Sick animals behave differently from healthy ones. But how can you monitor animals’ behaviour during infectious disease trials without having to keep watch over them around the clock? Wageningen University & Research (WUR) scientists are working on methods for tracking such behaviour. This will make animal trials more reliable, help refine and cut back on animal testing and improve animal welfare.
Infectious diseases such as bird flu are a threat to the health of humans and animals alike, and have a major impact on animal welfare. Trials with animals help researchers to learn more about infectious diseases and develop vaccines. “In these trials, the animals are infected and their symptoms monitored,” explains Harmen Doekes, a researcher and lecturer at Animal Breeding and Genomics. Aspects such as the temperature, blood values and behaviour are all recorded to determine how a pathogen such as a virus affects the animal. “The disadvantage is that you can’t spend all day next to the enclosure observing the animals,” says Doekes. “That means our measurements are only snapshots.”